Have you noticed the big increase in articles in the media telling us “how to be happy”? It’s a great idea but there are some problems to consider. Firstly, aiming for short term pleasures can bring happiness, but this can soon fall flat and often brings a heap of unwanted long term side effects.
A more important problem is that the life of unbridled happiness doesn’t actually exist. Most of us, in any normal week, will experience disappointment, stress, annoyance, bewilderment and sadness. The truth is that life can be pretty hard. For anything that we care about we are going to feel the full range of these feelings. For example, many people say that raising children is one of the most rewarding and meaningful things that they have done. But, at the same time they will have had moments along the way when they would have nearly torn their hair out in frustration. Like yin and yang, loving and stressing tend to co-exist in equal measure.
Let’s face it, if we came across someone in a permanent state of happiness we would be irritated to death by them. We would run from them in the same way as we would run away from someone who was relentlessly negative.
So, should we be looking to increase our happiness? Perhaps it would make more sense to talk of increasing the meaningfulness of life. This would mean moving in the direction of what is important. Towards a life of meaning rather than a life of pleasure.
The bottom line is - forget chasing happiness. Try to move your life purposefully and deliberately towards the things that are important to you. And if you are lucky you might chance along some happiness along the way.
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